Two months ago, Daily Monitor brought to our attention the state of affairs of Naguru hospital, the US$ 8 million (apparently) modern complex which was a gift from one republic to the other; China-Uganda Friendship.The beautiful structure that was officially opened at the beginning of 2012 brought with it the hope of better service delivery using state-of-the-art equipment and efficient processes and workflows. Finally, or so I thought, expectant mothers in the area would say good bye to unnecessary deaths and children with health complications would get much needed attention.
I was disturbed to discover that patients have to buy a 48-page exercise book for their medical records before they can be attended to. I found myself lost in a cauldron of thought about many a dilemma that plague health facilities in Uganda and Africa as a whole.
I was driven in search of a solution to this precarious state of affairs, for an application so simple even for a nurse to use and yet powerful enough to integrate all if not most of the processes, right from when a patient walks into a health facility to when they leave. After a thorough hunt, my quest led me to the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Republic somewhere in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala where I discovered ClinicMaster which I more than gladly analysed, and now let’s see what I discovered.
ClinicMaster is an integrated health care management information system that allows hospitals and health centers to keep track of their patients, processes and medical supplies in stock while also ensuring that billing, costs and expenses are effectively maintained. So when a patient checks into a health facility instead of a cumbersome file being opened, their bio data and personal details are captured, including a phtograph and finger prints.
What’s in There?
This rather comprehensive, easy-to-customize desktop-based app consists of a number of modules to handle core processes such as patient visits, appointment scheduling, clinical notes, laboratory, pharmacy and drug inventory, cash payments and accounts billing and audit trails among others. It features a web-based component which is a lite version of the app.
It also provides for integration with health insurance providers, SMS alerts, ERP applications like Microsoft Dynamics NAVision and PAC systems for X-Ray and scans. I found the biometric registration of patients using finger prints very efficient as it saves a lot of time especially for forward (recurring patient) visits.
So what’s Under the Hood?
ClinicMaster is a .NET desktop application developed using C# (C Sharp) and Visual Basic. The records are stored using Microsoft SQL Server while the web-based version is powered by Active Server Pages (ASP.NET). Sorry my UNIX and FOSS folk, this certainly isn’t cut out for you. If it makes you feel better though, plans are underway to have a MySQL data store for this app. Ultimately I should say, it gets the job done.
Who’s Using ClinicMaster?
Even with the steep competition from similar apps, ClinicMaster is steadily gaining traction. With a clientele base spanning the East African Community who include some of the established health facilities like Case Medical Center, Makerere University Walter Reed Project (Kayunga HIV Project, Nagalama Catholic Hospital), Uganda Christian University, Gulu Independent Hospital, Kadic Health Services, Paragon Hospital Kampala, Rusherere Hospital, Louise Memorial Medical Center, Alshafa Hospital, Uganda Baati (Tororo), Makwa Medical Clinic (Nyeri, Kenya) and Afia First Clinic (Mombasa, Kenya)
Incidences such as stealing drugs, medical supplies (synonymous with Ugandan health facilities) and other forms of fraud are greatly reduced as checks and balances are introduced using the app. It also allows for credit facilities through health insurance service integration. To this end, a number of health insurance companies have signed up.
The Down Side
In this eon where everything is threatening to become mobile, the app scores low. It might be very difficult for a Doctor doing ward rounds to run around with his desktop as he attempts to take clinical notes. On the bright side, the developers are working on a version that can be ported to mobile devices such as tablet computers. Other plans include having a cloud version available. Hopefully these will be available sooner than later. The app doesn’t seem to scale well as the number of records get significantly bigger, witnessed by it freezing occasionally.
The Alternative Apps
There is a myriad of medical practice management systems in use globally, but my search locally did not yield much as most health facilities are still stuck with paper files and where they had systems in place, they are custom apps. I however encountered some apps that are serious contenders with ClinicMaster. These include SoftClinic ,Vitera Intergy, AdvancedMD, Epic Practice Management , eClinicalWorks, Remedi and NextGen . Considering that the developers of ClinicMaster are easy to reach for support, it still ranks high on my yard stick.
Meet the Team
SyncSoft International is the company behind ClinicMaster and they have been at it as far as 2009. Mr. Wilson Kutegeka, a humble and very passionate entrepreneur and 4-time Microsoft MVP (2009-2012) is the Technical Director and lead programmer. Also among the team is Mr. Samson Tusiime.
The need to integrate technology into health service delivery can’t be over emphasized. ClinicMaster, considering that it has been deployed with significant success, is a solution that could help improve workflows in health facilities like Naguru Hospital that are still disheveled with inefficient process that might come at the cost of priceless life. However, continuous research and development is required to ensure this app will remain competitive amidst this tech evolution where desktop computing is reaching its twilight.